The older sister/lover

Lesley Duncan has been the forgotten woman in the David Bowie story. Best-known as the writer of bitter-sweet songs like Love Song (covered by Elton John on Tumbleweed Connection, and recorded as a demo for Atlantic by David and Hutch), and for her backing vocals on albums by Pink Floyd, Elton John and many others, she was Bowie's 'on-off” girlfriend, introduced him to the music of Jacques Brel –  and the concept of UFO-spotting.

Here's a remembrance of Lesley, by DJ and MC Jeff Dexter (pictured with Lesley, above).

“I can't remember how I met Lesley, cos she was always around singing on other people's records, she was with Dusty [Springfield] and sang on a lot of big band records, too. But we always had a funny little attraction to each other socs we were both little. And then by 66 was when everything was going pretty psychedelic, and we started to see more of each other. And that's the time she tried to convince me David Bowie  was really a great talent and would do really well. I was a bit suspicious of David 'cos he was a Bromley boy.

“So Lesley and I got very close when psychedelia hit town in a big way. We were on a spiritual path – looking for flying saucers to take take us out of there. She was a small dynamo that ran this flat, up in Redington Road [overlooking Hampstead Heath]. There was another guy, Rod, lived there, I think at the end of the year Alex Harvey moved in, there were two other musicians living in the flat as well, then Wayne [Bardell] was a young kid who attached himself to her, too. There was also a girl called Trudy, who married Alex Harvey. And every Thursday we all, including David, used to have a gathering for meditation and flying saucers.

“It would be a group of people interested in that intention. S joined the group a few times, there was an Australian from Woomera, the tracking station down under, John Michel came two or three times to talk about Lay Lines.

“Lesley was slightly older [than Bowie and me], a little more grown up than us two babies. She was very open and attractive to younger boys. Her worldview was Peace and Love, man, save the world and make a better place, but do it with a smile on your face.

“She was a Jock [Scottish] but she'd been in London many years. She was reading everything of the time, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, books on flying saucers, anything esoteric, but she was a busy girl too, she was out sessioning a lot and writing the first batch of real songs. There would often be great evenings of music there, people playing and singing and listening to all the new records. The day of recording 'All You Need Is Love', rather than going to Abbey Road I went to Redington Road- we thought if there was gonna be a linkup across the globe, we thought this was a good time and place to make contact. 

“I think Lesley encouraged David to look deeper into his songs. Rather than just trying to be Anthony Newley –  as much as we liked Anthony Newley we didn't really need another. And in 68 she got her RCA deal, which is when she started to write more seriously herself, so I know they would talk a lot about songwriting. She was like an older sister/lover. And of course she had an impact on his world view as well, he'd stopped just writing pop songs and was going on a spiritual path. Finding himself. We were all on a spiritual journey all trying to find ourself, trying to find what had been lacking.”